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Greenpeace Czech Republic marks Kyoto coming into force with a large banner reading "Kyoto for the Earth" in the front of famous National Museum in the centre of Prague. The museum is a place marking historic and symbolic events in recent Czech history.

Kyoto

On 16 February 2005, in the culmination of ten years of sometimes exhausting and often frustrating negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol became law. Thirty-five industrialised countries along with the European Union are now legally bound to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

TheKyoto Protocol is the world's only international agreement with bindingtargets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  As such, it is theprimary tool governments of the world have to address climatechange.  Specifically, the Protocol requires a nominal 5 percentreduction in emissions by developed countries world-wide relative to1990 levels, by 2008-2012.  To meet this world-wide target, eachcountry is obligated to its individual target - the European Union(EU[15]) 8 percent, Japan 6 percent, etc.  These individualtargets are derived from past greenhouse gas emissions.

Inaddition to legally binding national emissions targets, the KyotoProtocol includes various trading mechanisms.  Now that theProtocol is law, formal preparations will begin to create a 'global'carbon market for emissions trading by 2008, and the so-called'flexible mechanisms' - the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and JointImplementation (JI) - will become operational.

The KyotoProtocol was originally agreed on in 1997 - although many crucialdetails were left to later talks.  In order to enter into force(become law) the Protocol required ratification by at least 55countries accounting for at least 55 percent of the carbon dioxideemissions from Annex B (industrialised) nations.  So far, 129countries have ratified or acceded to the Protocol.  It passed thenumber of countries test in 2002, and finally passed the second hurdlewith ratification by the Russian Federation in late 2004.

Notablyabsent from the Protocol is the US; which shows no signs of ratifyingthe treaty, at least not as long as the Bush administration is in power- even though the US is the world's biggest greenhouse gaspolluter.  Australia, Liechtenstein, Croatia and Monaco also haveyet to complete the ratification process.

The Clean Development Mechanism (Article 12)

TheClean Development Mechanism is designed to generate emissions reductioncredits for Annex I countries that finance projects in non-Annex Icountries who are part of the treaty.  For example, Canadafinancing an energy efficiency project in China, or Japan financing arenewable energy project in Morocco. These projects must have theapproval of the CDM Executive Board, and in addition to generatingmeasurable emissions reductions against a business-as-usual baseline,they should contribute to sustainable development in the developingcountry partners.

Joint Implementation (Article 3)

JointImplementation allows industrialised countries with emissions reductiontargets to cooperate in meeting them.  For example,German-financed energy efficiency projects in Russia, orNorwegian-financed renewable energy projects in Hungary, which generateemissions reductions, under specific circumstances can be credited tothe country that finances them.  In theory, this is a moreeconomically efficient means of generating the same overall emissionsreductions for industrialised countries.

See also 'Sinks' and other possible pitfalls.

Will the Kyoto Protocol "save the climate"?

TheKyoto Protocol is an important first step - as it was intended tobe.  It has always been recognized that the Kyoto Protocol willnot be enough on its own.  To avoid dangerous climate change theworld needs at least 30 percent cuts by industrialized countries by2020, increasing to 70-80 percent cuts by mid-century.  Anythingless than this will consign our children and theirs to a veryunpleasant and very unstable world.

The decisions thatgovernments, industry and civil society make over the next decade ortwo will be decisive. You have a say in those decision, and your helpis needed.  See our Take Action page for what you can do.

More information:

Kyoto pitfalls

International negotiations - Greenpeace position statements and first hand reports from international meetings.

Text of the Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol becomes law - Greenpeace marks the event and calls for action around the world.

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